WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There were some emotional moments as students returned to the Winston-Salem high school campus to pick up vehicles and belongings Friday following a shooting Wednesday.
People hugged one another as they returned during certain time slots to gather their things for the long holiday weekend. They are set to resume classes Tuesday.
Mount Tabor High School officials say they have seen an outpouring of support from alumni, families and friends asking how they can help the family of a student who was killed in the school shooting Wednesday.
Fifteen-year-old William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr. was shot at the school and died after being taken to a hospital, authorities said.
Friday morning, school officials said on Twitter they are collecting donations for the family made out to the school with "Miller Benevolent Fund" in the memo. Donations can be dropped off at the school's main office.
Thursday night, students, teachers, staff and community members came together in prayer and support, one day after the deadly shooting at the Winston-Salem high school.
More than 100 people were in attendance at the vigil held at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, which is close to the school campus.
"How is everyone doing," asked Mount Tabor High School Principal Ed Weiss as he walked around checking in on students before the vigil commenced.
Roughly 32 hours had passed since a student was shot just after noon Wednesday, putting the school on lockdown as police and sheriff’s deputies launched a six-hour manhunt. Other schools in the district were also put on lockdown just to be cautious.
A Mount Tabor High School coach and teacher attending the vigil, Rick Anderson, said, “Yesterday was the scariest and toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with.” He also commended his colleagues and law enforcement for doing everything they could to keep the rest of the students safe.
The sheriff’s office said deputies arrested the suspected shooter around 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Forsyth County District Attorney hinted that the incident may have been gang related at a news conference Thursday morning.
During a news conference Wednesday, officials said they believed the suspect was a student at the school.
District Attorney Jim O’Neill refused to give specifics about the case, but did say, “If a child enters a gang at 6th or 7th grade, we’ve lost them folks.”
Gov. Roy Cooper joined Winston-Salem and Forsyth County officials Thursday.
“I wanted to come today to let the people of this community to know that the State of North Carolina was behind them, and we wanted to provide all the help that we could,” Cooper said. “This is a pain and a fear that no child or parent should ever have to confront, simply by having a child go to school,” he said.
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Tuesday said the victim’s mother asked him to share her son’s name: William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr. He succumbed to his injuries after being taken to a hospital Wednesday.
The sheriff said he spoke with the mother again, and she asked him to share another message with the public: “Tell the mothers to tell their babies to put their guns down, because it’s senseless.”
The sheriff said there were two school resource officers, which he calls SROs, at Mount Tabor High when the student was shot.
“The time in which we’re living in, SROs are a necessity in our schools,” he said. “There are so many social issues in our society and our community that become criminal justice issues, and they spill over in different places.”
“I can tell you that guns are easily accessible in our society now,” Kimbrough said. “In a school that is basically, people, young men and women are coming and going, bookbags and so many other areas, you can’t control that.”
Kimbrough, Cooper and the other officials who spoke during a news conference Thursday all said student safety was their priority. This is the second school shooting in North Carolina this week. A 15-year-old in New Hanover County faces attempted murder charges after a shooting in Wilmington that injured another student.
The shootings come a week after most students went back to school, many for the first time in more than a year.
“We know that our children need to be in the classroom to get the full experience of learning, and that’s why we’ve worked through this pandemic and why so many, more than 90% of our children are under a mask mandate,” the governor said.
“In general, our public schools are very safe places for children, this kind of incident is something that doesn’t usually happen. It’s horrible. It’s one of the reasons I’m here, it’s one of the reasons we’ve all gathered together as a community with resolve,” Cooper said.